THANKFUL: French and Martha Hill arranged mass of thanksgiving for political candidates such as Hill the day after the election. He opposes federal 'giveaways' for health care. Soiree

Here’s tonight’s open line. Closing with this:

J. French Hill, the millionaire Republican banker elected to 2nd District Congress last week, is featured in a profile in the latest Arkansas Catholic on his election. He’s a devout Catholic, perhaps the first elected to this congressional seat. (HISTORIC UPDATE FROM THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ARKANSAS: The first Catholic to represent Little Rock in Congress was William Leake Terry, when the city was in the 4th District.) The article notes — as several readers earlier had — that Hill  and his wife Martha arranged a Mass of Thanksgiving at Christ the King Catholic Church for the day after the election (invitations paid for by the French Hill campaign).


I was pointed to the Catholic diocesan newspaper’s article today by Stephanie Spener, a registered nurse, herself a Catholic. (Correction, she works at Arkansas Heart Hospital, not the  Catholic Church-supported St. Vincent Infirmary as I originally wrote). Her attention was drawn to this passage — Hill’s comments on health care.

The current Affordable Care Act “is a $2 trillion money machine that benefits hospitals and drug companies and hurts doctors and patients.” Hill supports the repeal of the act and replacing it with laws to improve weaknesses in health care laws.

He said he supported the creation of ARKids First under Gov. Mike Huckabee to ensure all children have health insurance coverage.

“It was controversial but not too controversial,” he said. “It was a Medicaid expansion … It was designed with the eye that the state could afford it. The Obama deal is a cram down.”

“I want more freedom, more personal choice, less government mandate but achieve some of the same objectives.”

Hill’s statement is, to be charitable, poorly informed. Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion it finances in Arkansas will increase insurance coverage for children substantially. Without it, the state could be looking at a reduction in its existing program. Certainly, hundreds of thousands of working people and families would again have no health insurance security. But I give the floor to nurse Spencer who sent this letter to the Arkansas Catholic. (She should send a copy, too, to Pope Francis, who Hill praised for saying civility was not a weakness. The pope has also spoken movingly of the inequality in access to health care.) Writes tSpencer:


Response to Rep. French Hill re: ACA is a 2 trillion dollar “giveaway” to hospitals.

Because of Arkansas’ implementation of “Obamacare” in a unique conservative form crafted by the Arkansas General Assembly last year, roughly a quarter of a million previously uninsured Arkansans now have access to health care through the Arkansas Private Option. When these previously uninsured individuals sought emergency care in Arkansas hospitals, the hospitals by law had to “eat” the cost. In rural areas (i.e. most of Arkansas) with high levels of poverty, this phenomenon put hospitals (including Catholic hospitals) in a precarious financial situation at best.

Arkansas’ Private Option now allows the previously uninsured access to comprehensive health care, instead of just costly and inefficient “stop gap” emergency care (the only care available to the uninsured prior to “Obamacare”). I was surprised by Rep. Hill’s characterization in the Arkansas Catholic of the Affordable Care Act as a 2 trillion dollar “giveaway” to hospitals (and drug companies). While I won’t dispute the drug company characterization, in regards to the hospital “giveaway”, our society does not generally construe an organization simply being paid for services rendered to be a “giveaway”. Since the implementation of the Private Option in Arkansas, hospitals have had a 56% decrease in uncompensated care costs. Hence, Arkansas’ Private Option is helping to keep hospitals, often the primary economic force in rural communities, open and providing jobs and needed health care for Arkansans.

Since the implementation of Arkansas’ Private Option, Arkansas has enjoyed the sharpest reduction in the rate of uninsured adults in the entire nation. Instead of being 49th in the nation for the rate of uninsured adults, we are now tied with New Hampshire at 22nd. How this is can be characterized as a bad thing for Arkansas is beyond me. But unfortunately, the first item on the Arkansas Republican controlled legislature’s agenda in 2015 is to repeal Arkansas’ Private Option.

As Catholics, we have an obligation to live the ENTIRETY of Christ’s gospel, without a sole focus on abortion and gay marriage in political deliberations [both of which Hill criticized in his interview]. Pope Francis’ papacy has been marked by a new focus on the need to address the evils of poverty and its associated deprivations such as lack of health care.

“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinelydisturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital thatgovernment leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons,
working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.”

Pope Francis, Evangelli Gaudium

Keeping the Arkansas Private Option intact would help us carry out Pope Francis’ exhortation.

Hill’s interview is remarkable for its divergence from remarks of both the pope and Arkansas Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor. The bishop, for example, supports the DREAM Act for immigrant children. Hill doesn’t.Taylor has preached from the pulpit about economic justice. Hill opposed the minima wage increase. Taylor is one of the stator’s leading advocate for immigrants. Hill wants to secure the borders and maybe have a better tightly controlled guest worker program. On contraceptives, gays and abortions, they are in sync. Though the pope has demonstrated somewhat more tolerance on gay people.